£18.7M Grant Funding for Social Enterprises

Key Fund, is part of a consortium of five social investors delivering the new Social Enterprise Support Fund in response to COVID-19, announced today.

Our client, Key Fund, is part of a consortium of five social investors delivering the new Social Enterprise Support Fund in response to COVID-19, announced today.

For release. 13.07.2020

New fund launches to deliver £18.7 million in grant funding to social enterprises

The Social Enterprise Support Fund will provide essential financial support between £10,000 and £300,000 to help social enterprises during COVID-19.

Five social enterprise support agencies have come together to deliver the new fund which launches today. Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd will jointly deliver £18.7 million in grants, with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.

This has been made possible thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises have been at the heart of community survival and recovery during this crisis, from making PPE for health workers, to providing food and connection in their neighbourhoods.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund responds to an urgent need in the sector to help social enterprises change the way they work, make their spaces COVID-secure, and manage liquidity during the next six months.

The fund is aimed at social enterprises supporting people at high health risk from COVID-19, and those supporting people facing increased social and economic challenges as a result of COVID-19.

Vulnerable people need this support more than ever, but social ventures are struggling to make enough income to meet this need. Research shows that this crisis is disproportionately hurting communities who already experience social and economic inequalities.

The partners welcome The National Lottery Community Fund’s recognition of the valuable contribution to our economy and society which social enterprises make, enabling a fund that will help critical businesses survive and thrive.

The fund is committed to inclusion, working to ensure that the grants reach groups that are led by people from BAME communities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and leaders with lived experience of the issues that the social enterprise is addressing.

The support agencies delivering the Social Enterprise Support Fund have come together around a common purpose and shared principles of fairness, flexibility, inclusivity, accountability and transparency.

Through this partnership, the funds will be able to reach those who need it the most and enable communities to build back better.

Welcoming the launch of the fund

Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, said: “Key Fund has been investing in social enterprise for over 20 years, and we know from experience that these organisations, operating at the very frontline, are best placed to help communities respond to the challenges of Covid-19. For years, we have championed the use of loans to support the development of trading in social enterprises, as a way to independence and resilience. Now, with trading impacted by lockdown for many, and with the need for services increasing, it is the time to go back to grants, and so we are delighted to launch this new fund. COVID-19 has hit the marginalised, poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, so it is critical social enterprises are supported with the ‘right money, at the right time’ when they are needed like never before as a lifeline to jobs, community, social care, health and well-being.”

Mark Norbury, Chief Executive, UnLtd said:
“Social entrepreneurs are delivering crucial community support, while balancing their operations, finances, mental health, and social distancing. The virus, the economic crash, and inaccessible support are hitting vulnerable communities the hardest, and an unprecedented pandemic requires an unprecedented response.

“We understand that disproportionately affected communities require disproportionate relief. At UnLtd we specifically request social enterprises led by marginalised people to apply for this grant support.”

Alastair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, said:
“Many social entrepreneurs are on the frontline of this crisis, supporting people who are most at-risk. Others are working with groups who have been disproportionately hard hit by COVID-19. At the same time, they have seen their income from trading plummet. This funding comes at a critical time.

“Working with our partners, we will do everything we can to ensure this funding reaches social entrepreneurs as quickly as possible, so they can recover lost income and help their communities to recover and rebuild.”

Daniel Brewer, CEO, Resonance said:
“This funding is crucial – COVD-19 has hit many social entrepreneurs hard, both operationally and financially, it’s important to remember that these entrepreneurs are supporting some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in society, many of which are based in marginalised communities across England.

“In conjunction with our Partners, we are committed to ensuring that this funding reaches those entrepreneurs in real need, especially those who support disability led organisations, those supporting the BAME community and those created by social entrepreneurs in later life.”

Danyal Sattar, CEO, The Big Issue Invest said:

“As a BAME background Chief Executive Officer of The Big Issue Invest, I personally and we as an organisation are very aware of the challenges and disparities that many vulnerable communities and individuals will experience as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

“The recent #CharitySoWhite movement has bought to the public view the extent to which BAME organisations and individuals feel excluded by the current funding structures. The focus has been on philanthropy and mainstream charities, but Social Investment is a part of this funding environment too. We encourage social enterprises led by or focused on BAME communities or groups who feel marginalised by us as funders, to apply for this grant support.

“These are unprecedented times but the impacts are felt disproportionately by BAME communities and we need to support organisations reaching those hardest hit in our society.”

The partnership is one of five The National Lottery Community Fund is supporting as part of its COVID crisis response.

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“These partnerships will extend the reach of National Lottery funding at a time when communities need it most. They are each experts in their field, which is why we’re delighted to be working alongside them. Their local knowledge, dedication and network of contacts will be critical in supporting the distribution of much needed funding at a critical time for communities. We’re grateful to them for working with us so closely and of course to National Lottery players for making this emergency response possible.”


  • The fund will be made available through a shared portal at http://socialenterprisesupportfund.org.uk/
  • The fund is for social enterprises in England, with an annual income between £25,000 and £1.5 million before COVID-19.
  • Applications will be open from 1pm Monday 13th July – 20th July, with further application rounds in August and September, subject to change.
  • For more information contact: media@sesupportfund.org.uk

About the social enterprise support agencies


UnLtd finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs in the UK – enterprising people with solutions to change our society for the better. From starting ups to scaling up, UnLtd’s unique package of support and funding helps social entrepreneurs to realise their untapped potential and build a better society for all. So that social entrepreneurs can achieve this potential, UnLtd also works to break down the barriers they face, such as finding customers, making a living, and getting access to finance. We set out to change the system so it works better for those who set out to change society.

Big Issue Invest

Founded in 2005, Big Issue Invest extends The Big Issue’s mission by financing the growth of sustainable social enterprises.

Big Issue Invest offers social enterprises, charities and profit-with-purpose businesses loans and investment from £20,000 to £3 million. Since 2005, we have invested in more than 400 social enterprises and charities across the UK.

Big Issue Invest currently manages or advises on over £250 million of impact funds, and is creating the UK’s first ‘Social Merchant Bank – ’by social entrepreneurs, for social entrepreneurs’.

We provide finance to organisations that create positive social impact. Almost all of our investees are unable to raise mainstream finance. We have made more than 330 since 2005, over 50% of which were into organisations working in the 25% most deprived areas of the UK. 80% of our investees became more financially sustainable as a result of our investment, and more than half were able to hire new staff last year.


Key Fund

Our mission is to provide the right kind of money at the right time for the development and growth of sustainable and impactful community and social enterprises that are unable to secure support from elsewhere.

We provide finance – both loans and grant/loan packages – to help community and social enterprises to start-up, become sustainable, or grow. It’s not just about the money. It’s also about providing the right kind of support to help our investees have the best possible chance of success. Our investees have one crucial thing in common – the ambition to build and strengthen local communities and create a positive impact.

We invest in community and social enterprises who have traditionally been excluded; turned down by mainstream banks. Particularly those in disadvantaged areas.

Key Fund believes in the power of people to find solutions to the challenges facing their communities. Our mission is to remove barriers to finance.


Resonance are one of the UK’s leading social impact investment companies, established in 2002, with a mission to connect capital with social enterprise. Resonance currently has £210m of funds under management across twelve operational social impact investment funds. These funds tackle some of the major societal issues in the UK such as homelessness, poverty and health & wellbeing.

Resonance also works in an advisory capacity with ambitious social enterprises, helping them with professional advice on governance, impact and process.

In the financial year 2018/19 Resonance mobilised almost £34m of capital into the hands of social enterprises and charities.

Resonance are a B Corp, and have offices across the UK, including London, Cornwall, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham with a team of over 40 supporting social enterprises and the communities they serve.


School for Social Entrepreneurs

We can’t fix issues like poverty, climate change and ill-health alone. That’s why the School for Social Entrepreneurs exists. We help 1,000 people a year develop the skills, strengths and networks they need to tackle society’s biggest problems.

We run courses that equip people to start, scale and strengthen organisations that make a positive difference. But we’re not a traditional school. Learning with SSE is inspiring, action-based and accessible. We support people in other ways too, such as funding and mentoring.

Lord Michael Young founded SSE in 1997, and we’ve grown to a network of schools across the UK, Canada and India. Together, we’re changing lives and transforming communities.

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.


We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.